I wrote the following immediately after the November election.It feels awfully hopeful considering the dark days that followed. Then again, it's hard not to see hope out there, and I had the feeling yesterday that the anger bubbling up several times a day was ebbing, replaced by hope. That said, a reader wrote me after this was published, taking me to task in a weird way and noting that he would be unable to read my column any further. I had stepped over some line in his imagination, in which I wrote about silly things and left life as we know and experience it alone. I wrote him back and told him, yep, definitely stop reading if it bothers you. He was offended by this, and implied that he'd be in contact with my "superiors" (I'm a freelance writer). My superiors thought it was hilarious. There was hope there, too.
The Enemy Within
I don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to make a few simple deductions about those of you reading right now. Although it would be awesome to be Sherlock Holmes.
But this is pretty easy. When I first started this column, I was a little gobsmacked by the thought that maybe 10,000 people were going to read my dumb sentences about whatever I ate the night before or how annoying my children can be. I knew nothing about you.
That was a long time ago. This is now, and so I can skip the deerstalker, although, again, that would be a pretty awesome hat.
You’re reading a newspaper. We’re all reading a lot more, but people who read newspapers these days tend to be people who are interested in news. It’s not a hard deduction to make. Elementary, you might say.
I’ll also go out on a sturdy limb and suggest that you read other things. Magazines. Novels. Biographies. This is nice, because I don’t have to mention Sherlock Holmes and qualify it. “Mr. Holmes, the fictional amateur detective created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle,” would be ridiculous. You know what I’m talking about.
I’ll admit to a little extrapolation. I just figure if you like to catch up on local news, you’re probably interested in the bigger picture, by which I mean the presidential election that just happened.
I have my reasons for mostly staying away from national politics. I don’t write a political column, for one thing. I can’t imagine I could persuade anyone to change their mind, for another.
I’d also add that in this polarized country we currently live in (or so the pundits tell us), with thousands of sites available that will confirm our particular biases and leave us suspicious of anything that is contrary, facts are an endangered species. And I tend to prefer facts.
The election is over. Yes, there were some obvious attempts at voter intimidation, as well as voter suppression, and that’s bad and needs to be addressed, but I see no signs it swung the election.
Anyway, I’m not going to re-litigate this. It wouldn’t do us any good, and I’m hardly an expert. I enjoy politics and watching our Constitution in action, but I’m just a guy with an opinion. I have no idea what’s going to happen after January 20, 2017. I try to stay optimistic.
And I don’t care who you voted for. None of my business, unless I’ve somehow developed a superpower that makes me always right, in which case I guess I might have a responsibility to set you straight. I see no sign of a superpower, though. Although I do have a really low cholesterol level.
Look: I’m not being coy. I didn’t vote for Donald Trump. I thought Donald Trump was the least qualified candidate for president ever nominated, at least in my lifetime and quite possibly in our history. He seemed to be clueless about what the job entailed, and then there was the bigotry and nasty comments that we’ve all come to expect. The man lied so routinely it became old news. He seemed to encourage the darkest aspects of the American character.
But he won, and even with the hanky-panky it’s hard to see it as anything but legitimate.
Even if you’re disheartened by this, and obviously some of you aren’t, I want to find a silver lining in this mess of an election season. And I believe I have.
Three days following the election, a young woman was walking near the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor when she was approached by a young man. She was wearing a hijab, and he informed her that she would either remove it, or he’d set her on fire with his lighter.
Set her on fire, you see. For wearing a hijab.
This is the silver lining. Because they’ve always been there, people like this, hiding in the shadows, writing their anonymous screeds in the comment sections, viciously attacking women and people of color on social media but otherwise keeping a low profile.
And now, apparently, some of them feel free with this election result. Free to proudly announce their bigotry and their hate. Empowered to take those white hoods out of the closet. Happy to hang a black mannequin in a noose from a tree and then say, “Hey, it was just a Halloween thing.”
As I said, they’ve always been there. They believe the paleness of their skin entitles them to a whole continent, preferably one in which only people who look and believe as they do can live.
Now they’re out in the open, having made a mistake in judgment. Of the 325 million people in this country, about 120 million bothered to vote, almost evenly split between the candidates. If these people think that the American people have spoken, they haven’t been listening.
They speak of being “real Americans” and post pictures of themselves online wearing blackface with racist slogans, and they threaten young women with immolation because they don’t like their choice in clothes.
And now we know who they are, and we know what they obviously don’t: There are way more of us than them.
So go ahead. Be as bigoted as you like, but take out your lighter and threaten to set a woman on fire because of her religious beliefs? I think you’re about to meet some real Americans, and I think you’re going to be surprised.